Daily News Archive
From February 6, 2001
Fern Found to Soak
The process by which vegetation is used for treatment of contaminated soils, sediments, or waters to degrade, assimilate, metabolize, or detoxify inorganic and organic chemicals is called phytoremediation. It is considered an attractive technology because of its relatively low cost and aesthetic nature of using plants to clean up sites. The brake fern is the first arsenic hyperaccumulating plant to be discovered.
Arsenic is a naturally
occurring element in rocks, soils, and the waters in contact with them.
Before 1968, inorganic forms of arsenic were used extensively in agriculture
as insecticides and herbicides. Frequent applications of these chemicals
at high rates have resulted in significant arsenic accumulation in soils.
Arsenic is also a major contaminant of the surface, ground, and drinking
water in the United States abroad. Arsenic contamination poses a significant
health risk to humans and animals. It is a known carcinogen, contributing
to skin, lung, bladder, and other cancers, a known mutagen, and has adverse
effects on the heart, lungs, and immune system.